“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon,” (Jeremiah 29:1).
In this text, Jeremiah, the prophet, sent a letter to the people of Israel while they were in captivity in Babylon. He addressed the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon. The letter contained God’s expectations of the Israelite people while they were in captivity.
What was Gods message to an incarcerated people? Moreover, why listen to God who had allowed this insidious evil to happen?
First, it is important to note that God had something to say exclusively about this situation. Although God had allowed this situation to occur (Jeremiah 29:4), He wanted Jeremiah to remind the people that He, alone, was their provider and deliverer. Incarceration got the people’s attention.
Second, God had plans that they must fulfill while in captivity. What they do during incarceration was essential to their survivor. While in captivity God said, “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit (verse 5). How is it that captive people were able to build and plant? The text does not detail in this chapter how a captured people acquired materials for building homes and planting gardens. Yet, the people built and flourished among their enemy. God is Jehovah Jireh (provider).
Third, God told the people that they must increase and not decrease in numbers. They were instructed to take wives and have children (verse 6) while in captivity. Family is important to God and God provided for multiple generations during this seventy-year period.
Fourth, God instructed them to pray and seek to be a peaceful people in their captured situation (verse 7). “ And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” If they live peacefully, they will have peace.
Fifth, in verses 8-9, God instructed the people to be watchmen; be wise. He warned them against false prophets who were among them. “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.”
For God said,“ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
So Jeremiah preached that the Lord was part of the past, present and future of His people. In captivity, he reminded them that God knows the pain and suffering that they would go through. Jeremiah told them that in time of captivity they would learn to seek God. He prophesied, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive (verses 12-15).”
The survival of Israel is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Every day, God shows judgement of His people; instead of justice, He grants us new mercy each day.
The text identified certain ones who were punished for misleading the people. They did not escape the judgement of God (verses 29-32). There were those who He allowed to return home better and stronger.
I pray that God allows us to return home better and stronger.